Seattle earmarks funds for camping pilot program

by Amy Roe

The Seattle City Council’s proposed 2012 budget contains some good news for those living in their cars.

The budget package includes $20,000 to fund case management services for a Safe Parking Pilot program at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard.

The money will pay for an outreach worker to help car campers get connected to resources, including permanent housing.

The church has agreed to provide parking spaces and washroom facilities, but funding for outreach was the missing piece.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien sought the money for outreach for the pilot program from the city’s human services budget. He said the pilot, modeled after a program in Eugene, Ore., is a stopgap. A similar idea has been brought up in discussions around homeless options in Portland as well. However, no formal proposal has been brought forward.

O’Brien said the city of Seattle is committed to transitioning people out of homelessness, but there’s not enough housing to meet the current need.

Not everyone embraced the idea. At a recent budget hearing, City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said car camping is dangerous and complicated, and the city should focus on other methods to help the homeless.

“I have tried camping in a car and it is not comfortable,” Rasmussen said. “Most cars are not suited for sleeping or living, unless you’re in a really large car.”

Advocates for the homeless have sought support for car campers for years. Ballard Homes For All started in 2007 after state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle) called community members together to address Ballard’s growing homeless population. Dickerson secured $10,000 for a car camping pilot program but that money must be used by Spring 2012.

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